Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Here's to the Nerds

So, this weekend I went to what must be the world's largest convention of biblical scholars, theologians, and religious studies professors. There were 10,000 people at AAR/SBL this year, and attendees ranged from luminaries in the respective fields, to professors at seminaries, universities, and colleges, to doctoral and masters students, and those just plain old interested enough to shell out a couple hundred bucks and sit in rooms listening to lectures from 9:00am to 9:00pm.  And every last one of them, in his or her own special way, was an absolute weirdo. And I loved them.

This isn't to say that the people there weren't well-adjusted members of society. I'm sure at least some of them were. But seriously -- who spends years and years and years studying Greek grammar with an undying passion? Who spends years unpacking one chapter, or even one paragraph, or one sentence, or one word of Scripture, and then writes a 400-page book about it? Who spends the majority of her life absolutely broke so she can study something esoteric and then teach three sections of Religion 101 every semester until she gets tenure, if she ever gets tenure? The answer is nerds. Weirdo nerds.

And what was great about going to AAR/SBL was that they were all there, together. Sharing ideas, seeing long-lost friends and classmates, getting really, really excited about stuff that 99.99% of the population doesn't care about. But they care, and deeply. And they care together.  What I loved was the community which formed around a mutual love of the subject. How, even through the academic posturing of desperate doctoral students looking for work, every now and then their very self shone through and you caught a glimpse of what they loved and how they couldn't help who they were. In this environment, there was a live-and-let-live attitude about what made you tick, and acceptance of others in their very own special case of obsession of Marcion of Smyrna and the Shaping of Christian Identity in the Martyrdom of Polycarp. Yup. I've got no idea what that was about, but I'm happy for him. And everyone else was, too.

And in this, this acceptance of others in all of their oddness, was what made the community so wonderful. May we all learn to not just tolerate, but to embrace the differences. In this acceptance was a little slice of heaven.

You go nerds.

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